After opening this newsletter and scanning this article, what is the first question that comes to your mind? Perhaps it is “What is the point or purpose of the article?” When chatting with friends, we often wonder what point they’re trying to make. Yet, we sometimes neglect the most important point of all; mainly the point of our lives, or our life purpose. Because it is an important subject, I’ve written about it twice before: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/point-of-life.htm and http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/purpose.htm.
A reader asked me to write more about the subject and raised a couple of questions. So, I’ll try to cover the following points. Do we find or create our life purpose? Why is it important? How do we identify it? I’ll also answer two of our reader’s questions.
DO WE FIND OR CREATE OUR LIFE PURPOSE?
Some people neither search for nor create their purpose. Rather, their purpose is thrust upon them. Almost from birth they are driven to wholeheartedly devote their lives to a personal passion. Mozart is an example. He had no choice in the matter.
Life picked him and expressed its grandeur through him.
For most of us, however, our purpose is not immediately understood. That’s because we need to pause and stop acting out of habit. Once we quiet ourselves and ask questions, the answers will appear. Here are examples of questions that can unlock the mystery of our true purpose.
What brings me joy?
What excites me?
What special talents do I have?
How can I contribute to the world?
What do I feel drawn to?
If I had unlimited courage, what would I choose to do?
If I knew I could not fail, what would I choose to do?
What is tugging at my heartstrings?
What inspires me?
What have I been dreaming of doing for a long time?
What do I prefer to do above all other things?
What would I like to have people say about me at my funeral?
The answer that appears is not an intellectual understanding, but a FEELING. For when we answer our call, we are driven by passion, work with enthusiasm, and spread excitement wherever we go.
To get a better idea how the process works, let’s use my own life as an example. To keep the illustration brief, I will focus on a few examples that span the last eight years. Since that time my purpose or passion has been “to leave the world a better place.”
It’s very simple and probably something you can relate to. But also notice that this simple statement is a bit hazy. It lacks clarity. To bring it into sharper focus, we need to “drill down.” That is, I have to ask another question to probe more deeply. So, I ask, “How will I leave the world a better place?”
The answer, in my case, is “by accepting, recognizing, and inspiring others.” Can you see how my purpose is becoming clearer? But we still need to dig deeper. So, I ask, “How will I accept, recognize, and inspire others?
The answer appears: I will write articles, establish a Positive Thinkers Group, and do seminars. Ah, my purpose is growing still clearer, isn’t it?
Further questions remain. Questions such as “What topics will I write about in my articles? What subjects will I teach and what material will I produce for my seminars? What will be the goals of the Positive Thinkers Group and how will I reach them?
As you can see, as I drill down more and more deeply, my purpose grows clearer. But there is another important point. The deeper we drill (the more questions we ask), the more enthusiastic we feel. It’s like drilling for oil, but instead of striking “black gold,” we will strike an unlimited supply of PASSION. So, by the end of the process, we will know our purpose, have a road map pointing the way, and passion to drive us there and get us over the bumps in the road.
Since we are all unique, even if we share the same purpose, we will express it differently. We will express it according to our talents and interests. For example, others sharing the purpose “to make the world a better place” may do so by healing the sick, visiting prisoners, working in a hospice, helping children with special needs, helping the homeless, and comforting those who are suffering.
There is a huge difference between a tiny seed and a fragrant orchid or a speckled egg and a bird of paradise. You and I are that tiny seed or speckled egg, for we are not yet what we were meant to be. It is PURPOSE that causes our seed to bloom or our egg to hatch. Our purpose will lead us to a new horizon. And once we get there, yet another horizon will appear in the distance.
Our purpose points the way to endless growth, for we can always be better tomorrow than we are today.
WHY PURPOSE IS IMPORTANT
1. Purpose provides meaning and direction to our lives.
2. Passion transforms us from idle dreamers to purpose-driven men and women of action.
3. It provides the power to overcome pain, suffering, and difficulties.
4. It is the key that unlocks our potential.
5. It fills us with enthusiasm that wins us friends and opens many doors of opportunity.
6. It allows us to discover our power and act heroically.
7. It fills our lives with exuberance, excitement, joy, and happiness.
8. Despite the difficult and challenging times we live in, it fills us with hope.
9. It defines us. It explains who and what we are.
10. It challenges us to do what we never dared to and invites us to do what we formally believed to be impossible.
TIPS ON IDENTIFYING YOUR PURPOSE
1. Remember to drill down to clarify, identify, and intensify your purpose.
2. Seek not what is interesting, but what is important; not what fascinates you, but what electrifies you.
3. Don’t be afraid to have big dreams, for they are the ones that will excite you. Small dreams are smoldering ashes; big dreams are raging infernos. Reach out for what is yet impossible for you to imagine doing.
4. It’s not WHAT you do, but HOW you do it that counts. It’s not so much HOW busy you are, but WHY you are so busy.
5. As William J. Durant (1885 ~ 1981) wrote, “To give life a meaning, one must have a purpose larger than self.” Make your purpose larger and grander than yourself; make it something to aspire to.
Our reader awakened to his passion by following this simple
1. Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor
2. Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
3. Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence.
4. Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry.
This is your purpose.
For more details on this method, visit Steve Pavlina’s web page:
Another helpful tool is the following book:
GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY, The 5 Keys to Surpassing Everyone’s Expectations by Robert K. Cooper, Ph.D., Crown Business, 2006. Instead of the usual psychological investigation of self- defeating behavior, Dr. Cooper examines it through the prism of neuroscience. That is, in layman’s terms, he explains how our brain functions in ways that help or hinder us, and what to do about it.
Our reader asks, “In the past, I’ve have pursued my dreams and experienced success, but it was later followed by a series of catastrophic events that made my dream impossible. Doesn’t that mean we may not be able to live up to our purpose?”
Answer: There are two types of catastrophic events: real and imagined.
Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between the two. For example, let’s say you are a musical composer and lose your hearing by illness or accident. What is that, a real or an imagined catastrophe? A real catastrophe prevents one’s success while an imaginary one can be overcome.
In 1824, when Ludwig van Beethoven conducted the first performance of his glorious “Ode to Joy”, he was completely deaf! When we are driven by passion, the impossible becomes possible.
But what if someone’s purpose is to become a leading violinist, and after considerable success completely loses both arms in an accident? What then?
He would simply return to his purpose and drill down deeper. He would ask, “Why do I want to be a leading violinist?” The answer may be “Because I want to share great music with the world and connect with the audience.” This new answer may lead him to become a great composer and teacher, which will allow him to achieve his new dream.”
Our reader’s second question is “How can poor people in a third world country ever have a chance to follow their dreams if they are financially, geographically, religiously and racially not able to?”
Answer: This question is based on a false premise. Poverty, natural disasters, and handicaps of all kinds do not prevent people from reaching their dreams. Sufficient passion will overcome any hurdle. Every country, no matter how poor, has its share of great men and women. Heroes dwell in the midst of squalor and leaders rise like phoenixes from smoldering rubble. The barriers to success don’t lie outside of us, but within us. That’s why it is so important to dig deeply enough to strike the unlimited power of our passion.
I will conclude with a quote from someone who followed his passion: Buddha (c. 563 ~ 483): “Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.”